The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has always been dedicated to creating and sustaining positive change in the Elm City. Now, in its 90th year, the philanthropic organization is looking to honor this legacy and adapt to the community’s new needs.

Established in 1928 as part of the first generation of community foundations, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has distributed more than $434 million — generated by individual donations and investment returns — to local organizations. To commemorate 90 years of philanthropic work, the Community Foundation is celebrating its longstanding partnerships and donors. At the same time, the organization is envisioning a more inclusive and prosperous New Haven — one in which economic growth benefits all of the city’s residents.

“From the beginning and to this day, the Community Foundation is an expression of the community’s commitment to itself and the community’s faith in its own future,” said William Ginsberg, president and CEO of the foundation. “It’s a very positive act — putting money aside not only to meet today’s needs but to build an endowment for … future opportunities as they arise. We’re trying to capture that spirit as we celebrate the 90th.”

For the anniversary, the Community Foundation launched a web series titled “From the Start.” The series is a collection of articles and photographs that spotlights nonprofit organizations and initiatives that the Community Foundation has helped to create, as well as the lasting impact of these projects on the community. One such initiative is the foundation’s support of community responses to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The web series also features more recent initiatives. In 2011, the Community Foundation was integral to establishing the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, which provides educational and career-training programming. New Haven Promise, a scholarship fund run by the Community Foundation, launched in 2013 and has benefitted over 1,000 students.

“The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven are more than just investors; they are true community partners” Tom Griggs, co-director of development of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, said in an email. “They have also been a strong voice and leader in the arts community here in New Haven, advocating for community and providing us all with tools that allow us to evolve and grow.”

The Festival has received the support of the Community Foundation every year since 1996.

On its website and in its newsletter, the the Community Foundation’s has also been honoring its nonagenarian donors.

“Ninety years is a long time; we are an old institution. But there are people who are in our community who have been around that long too,” Ginsberg said. “The community has provided to the Community Foundation not only the resources but the flexibility and the position [over 90 years] to create things and sustain things of value.”

In the past year, the Community Foundation has grown its endowment from $509 million in 2016 to $625 million. The organization has reaped an 8.9 percent net return on its investments since 1995. This money then supports community organizations. Last year, the Community Foundation distributed $28.5 million in grant money to a variety of causes.

Looking forward, Ginsberg said that the Community Foundation will expand its reach through “mission-related investing” while continuing to play its traditional role. This means investing a portion of the organization’s endowment in more New Haven–based companies, instead of financial markets. Ginsberg said that the organization hopes to benefit the community by growing the local economy through these investments.

“Our nonprofit sector is being decimated by the state budget,” he said. “This is largely related to the fact that Connecticut has been one of the slowest growing states in the country economically for the last generation. We are stepping into an economic development … role that the Community Foundation has not previously played, but we’re doing it in a way it’s focused on what we’re calling ‘inclusive growth.’”

With an eye toward promoting economic growth, the Community Foundation will also strive to benefit “people across the socioeconomic spectrum,” according to Ginsberg. The organization has met with 60 community leaders, including businesspeople and social service workers, to discuss how to be more inclusive in its work. In particular, Ginsberg listed education, skills training and asset building as topics of discussion.

“This is just the beginning,” he said. “I hope an initiative about inclusive growth will emerge at the foundation and broadly, that the community as a whole will appreciate these ideas.”

Ruiyan Wang | ruiyan.wang@yale.edu